Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It's a big weekend coming up. We welcome family from Michelle and my sides – 13 in all. They're coming from six states – North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Iowa and Maryland. They're not coming to see us; we're not that interesting. They're coming for baby Isaiah's baptism this Sunday.

It's a blessed event, to be sure, and one we know our families are excited to share with us. But we figured to maximize interest, we pinned the date on the July 4th weekend, when our little town goes absolutely zany in its display of patriotic fervor and parties. It's such a festival of entertainment centered around our nation's independence that people come from all over to take it in.

We're lucky in that respect. We live in a town that is not only bayside beautiful, but holds one heckuva fun fiesta each and every summer. The offerings include nightly concerts in a park by the water, a carnival on the town common, backyard barbecues and a restaurant, bar and nightlife scene that, for a few days at least, would rival a mid-size city. In the seven years we've lived in this town, I've always been struck at the kaleidoscope of activity, the fever that grips everyone around July 4th. It's amazing.

Another draw to this time – and certainly of interest to some in our families – is the annual, traditional party that one of our neighbors holds. The affair is a really nice mix of extended family (theirs, of course), friends and even folks who wander in. The hosts are just great, colorful people who value time spent with others above all else, which explains why the annual July 4th party is so important to them and has become such a tradition. And then there's the backyard fireworks that culminate the evening. We're not talking sparklers here; these pyrotechnics are the monster, exploding bursts of color and sound that municipalities shell out for special events. It's like watching an Imax film from the front row. Except you're looking up, and you need to watch out for falling debris.

I'm failing to fully describe the scene, neighborly and across town, that marks this time. Granted, Isaiah's baptism and the reception we'll hold in his honor trumps all this weekend. But it doesn't hurt to have other attractions to reel family in.

Monday, June 20, 2011

8 Months

Baby Isaiah turned eight months old today.

Sure, it's significant, because each month is a cause for celebration when your child's less than a year old. But this one is special also because we've seen some pretty big changes in our little gut since he turned seven (months, of course). In those 30 or so days, Isaiah has been sitting up pretty much under his own power. His core is gaining strength, and he can sit upright, look around and flap his arms without tumbling over. The sitting upright posture doesn't last long – usually several minutes or so – and when he reaches for something in front of him, he hasn't quite figured out how to use his arms to help prop himself back up. He can do it, but it isn't smooth and takes considerable effort. Still, he's got the idea, and a new world has opened up for him, much different than the world from when you're just lying down.

He's also squawking like a madman. By nature, Isaiah is calmer than his older brother, Nathaniel, and more deliberate in his actions. Michelle and I have been discussing this. Whereas Nathaniel would spy a new toy, grab it, and either fling it or shriek at it, Isaiah will study it, then reach out and touch it, running his fingers over it. Very tactile. It's as if he's getting the toy's pulse. He observes before he reacts, whereas Nathaniel simply acts. No approach better than the other, mind you. Just different.

That cautious approach to objects holds true except for human faces. Isaiah is surprisingly quick on the draw when he gets within range of a nose, mouth, eyelid, ear or any other facial protrusion he can get a grip on. I have the scratches to prove it. Even then, however, when he latches on to your face, you can see that he's really concentrating on what he's doing, as if he's taking mental notes. So that's a nose. It has holes that I can stick my fingers in! And that's a mouth, with these rubbery, stretchy, red ledges I can grip and pull! Cool! I like faces!

Anyway, you get the point. There's a real fascination with faces. Isaiah, our cool, calculating little cucumber. Happy birthday, little man!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Feeding the Birds

There are many activities that excite Nathaniel. Wrestling on the bed, helping mommy prepare meals (he's the sous chef.), throwing balls around the house, skating, (trying to) ride his tricycle, banging his drum, playing his kitty piano, and on and on.

I should mention that tops among all things that Natty Lou likes to do is anything that involves being with our neighbor, Caleigh. But that's a story for another time.

The story for this post is another activity that Nathaniel enjoys, and that is feeding the birds.

We have three bird feeders in out backyard. Two of them are the long, vertical feeders that hang from shepherd hooks. They keep squirrels out by sliding downward and closing the feeding holes. Sometimes, though, the squirrels are able to scale the shepherd's hook just enough to latch on to the feeder, and while it slides shut, the apparatus is shaken so violently is spills some seeds. A few squirrels have figured out how to take a flying leap from the fence and latch themselves on to one of the feeders. To those who succeed, the reward is like the coins that tumble out of a slot machine when the jackpot is hit – a whole bunch of seeds come tumbling out.

The third feeder we have is a mesh sock of sorts that we hang from a tree branch. This sock holds thistle, or nyjer seed, and is there mostly for the finches. I'm always impressed how the finches find the sock, even when it's partially, or mostly, hidden among the tree leaves. We always have steady visitors to the hanging buffet.

The problem with the sock, with its little holes, is that it tears easily. I'm not sure whether the rips come from the finches or from sparrows that, when the other feeders are empty, sometimes will try to alight on the finch bag. But whoever it is, the sock shows tears from the first time it's hung. And they're not cheap, either. So, to save some money, I patch the holes up with duct tape. It looks a tad unsightly, but the birds aren't going for appearance; they're going for the food. Unfortunately, the duct patches last for about one feeding, meaning that when it's time to refill the bag, the duct tape has been worn off or is so covered with seeds that it won't stick anymore. So, another round of patching is needed. And so on.

OK, Nathaniel's role has been to help me fill the vertical feeders. I give him a middling grade in this endeavor, but not for a lack of trying. We use a plastic cup to pour the seed into the feeder, and that does take a fair amount of precision and control. Nathaniel, exuberant as he is, hasn't quite got the touch. So, I help guide the cup toward the feeder opening, and he pours. About half the cup goes in the feeder; the rest hits the ground.

Much more entertaining for Nathaniel is the filing of the finch bag. We need a ladder for this job, and Nathaniel loves that, because that means he gets to run to our neighbor's yard, where we borrow the ladder. After some extracurricular dashing around, I can usually wrangle Natty to accompany me to our yard, where I climb up, get the finch bag and refill it. At least it should be that easy. Of course, it isn't. Nathaniel wants to climb the ladder, too. At the beginning, he'd only climb a couple of rungs and tentatively at that. But now, he scrambles all the way up, some 7-8 feet off the ground.

The birds arrive soon after we finish, as if they've been watching us, waiting for us to go inside. That's where Nathaniel, will stand, nose pressed against a window. "We have food, birdies!" he'll call out.

And, inevitably, they come.